I wrote this to my son, Jack, 10 days after he was born. I've had many friends, clients, and followers ask to hear his birth story, and as I wrote it out, it became far too long to share in one social media post, so this felt like the next best place to share it.
It's been 10 days since you were born.
10 beautiful, exhausting, exhilarating days. You change so much over each one. I can't keep up with how you grow. I'm going to start writing your birth story - many have asked me to share it and I know we both want to remember it. When we found out we were having you, we were scared shitless and ecstatic at the same time. The world had just started shutting down due to COVID-19. It was March 2020. We had just stopped trying to have a baby because things in the world were getting so unpredictable - and then I was late.
Soon after, we did some research and decided we wanted to have our baby at home. We contacted your amazing Midwife, Beth, and began to prepare for your arrival! You were a healthy baby as you grew in my belly. Soon, we knew you'd be named Jack after your great grandpa Richards, daddy's grandpa Jack.
We walked the trails twice, sometimes three times a day, every day: you, me, and our puppy Abe, and lots of neighborhood friends. You shot lots of weddings, family sessions, and more with me while you grew. Everyone was so excited to see you growing. Your grandparents were especially surprised and excited to find out you were coming. You are the first grandbaby of all of them!.
You were due to make your arrival on Thanksgiving day - November 26 of 2020. Covid had changed the world by then and we were in our second lock down of the year. Momma was so tired and ready to meet you, but you had other plans.
Nine days later on December 5 my water broke at 5 AM. I woke up daddy and said “Do you wanna have a baby today?” He couldn't believe it! We waited so long for you.
My contractions started right away and dad was antsy, so he set up the birth pool in our room. We had planned to deliver you there. I needed to hold on to dad for every single contraction. They soon were almost a minute long and coming every 3 to 4 minutes and your dad was so strong through 23 hours of my unmedicated labor.
I wanted so badly to have you in the water. The water has always been so special to me. It’s what pulled me here to Northern Michigan. It’s where I find my peace and connect with Jesus, and it's where I wanted you to begin life. But God's plans are always better and I certainly always need reminding that I can't plan EVERYTHING. My favorite places to labor were the shower and the birthing tub - no surprise there.
Halfway through the day, I decided to try singing through my contractions. When I was pregnant, I was taking a self hypnosis class to help me manage my pain, but I got to a point in labor where I needed more, something different to focus on, so I started singing. I had created a special playlist for your birthday, full of worship songs. When a contraction came, I would start singing along. Knowing I could get through one more chorus or one more verse helped me get through the contraction. I even had my midwife, Beth, singing with me through some - and she made it clear beforehand that she doesn't sing haha!
At 5 PM, Beth checked my progress and I was slowly dilating, but you weren't turning like we hoped you would be. Beth said I needed to try to labor in some challenging positions to try to help you turn, so Dad helped me through what I felt like were the hardest hours as I labored on my side and lunged through many contractions. This was where I started to feel a breaking point and my body made it clear by starting to vomit.
At 9 PM, it was time to check again. I had progressed to 7 cm but you were starting to turn the wrong way. Beth had us continue to labor in those tough positions, but I could feel I was starting to lose my stamina. Dad helped me stay strong. He never left my side.
At 1 AM it was time for another check. I was stuck at 7 cm and you were turning the wrong way - sunny side up. I felt so defeated because I knew my body was nearly out of energy. I knew in the back of my mind that I may be transferring to the hospital.
We were closing in on 24 hours of my water being broken and though my birth team assured us we were safe, I started to feel anxious about that. My temperature was rising when I was laboring in the birth tub, so I wasn't able to use that anymore, which was very hard for me since that was providing some great relief.
We began talking about transferring for an epidural so that my body could rest and I could finish pushing my baby out. Our midwife continued to reassure us that we were both safe. However, she was honest with me and explained that I could have several more hours of this painful labor stage and possibly hours of pushing after that. We were at about 19 hours of unmedicated labor at this point. As much as I wanted to stay strong, I knew I needed help. I went to labor in the shower one more time and Chris and I had the conversation to transfer. He continued to build me up as I confessed how defeated I felt. In my delirium, I only wanted to know if the hospital had a shower for me to labor in. Beth said yes, but we're not transferring for a shower - we're transferring for an epidural. We all laughed. Our birth team helped us get ready to leave and then about 2 AM, we made the drive to the hospital. Thankfully, checking in was quick and easy.
Dr. Madion was the OB/GYN on duty that evening. He did another check and I had actually regressed from 7 cm to 5 cm. My body was so tired but my contractions were so strong and close together. Finally they got me in a room and I was able to labor in the shower while I waited for my epidural. I had to have a Covid test, which was awful. Chris was so tired he was falling asleep sitting up in the chair in the bathroom.
After my epidural I could finally breathe. Our nurse, Parisa, was so supportive of homebirth and truly made our experience positive. Thankfully, Beth was able to stay with us. After I got some sleep the OB came in to check again and I was only at 7 cm, my contractions had slowed, and you were turning the wrong way. Dr. Madion shared that he'd delivered thousands of babies and he didn’t think that this baby is coming out vaginally, but that I could keep trying for a few more hours. He did warn that I was getting close to risking infection because my water had been broken so long and that I would need to try Pitocin to ramp up my contractions again. I did not want that. He said that when I came in my contractions were strong enough that I should've been able to push my baby out, but clearly that wasn’t happening. I just wasn't ready to go back to that pain with no guarantee. He then strongly suggested we consider a C-section. Beth had warned us this would likely happen and though I was relieved to have another option, I was also devastated. We were so far from the natural homebirth I had dreamt of and started on just hours before. After quickly discussing it with the doctor, Beth, and Chris, we decided to go ahead with the C-section. We were so ready to meet you!
I was very scared and still somewhat sad, so I asked for some medication to help me calm down before the C-section. As they wheeled me to the OR I couldn't stop crying. Though I was so excited to meet you soon, this was not what I had pictured or prepared for to meet my baby and it was all happening so fast. I cried through the spinal and the whole procedure. I cried onto Parisa, our sweet nurse, as they gave me the spinal, because Chris wasn't allowed into the OR yet. Finally, they let him in.
I was strapped to what felt like a metal table and all I could see was machines, doctors, nurses, and bright white lights. I was so scared, so your daddy talked to me the whole time. He whispered all kinds of things about what we thought you'd be like, right into my ear so that his voice was all I could hear as I felt my whole body being opened up. I felt all my insides moving around and then I felt you! They lifted you out and I couldn't see you but I heard you cry right away, and my tears became happy ones. I told dad to go be with you! He cut your cord and they lifted you up so I could see you for just a moment. Dad said you had dark curly hair and I was so happy because you gave me lots of heartburn and they say that means baby has lots of hair! As they were putting my insides back together, I got so nauseous that I started puking - not fun while in the middle of a major abdominal surgery.
This is when things start to get fuzzy. Whatever they gave me for my anxiety finally kicked in and I was out of it. I also couldn't stop vomiting. They wheeled me into recovery where you, Dad, and Beth we're waiting. I tried to hold and feed you but I couldn't because I was so shaky. My eyelids wouldn't stay open. They gave me something else for my nausea and that knocked me out completely. Dad was on duty for your first 24 hours of life.
I woke up a bit when they had us settled in a room, but I found I couldn't open my eyes because the whole room would just spin. The exhaustion and additional medication had me in rough shape. The nurse was trying to help me feed you but I couldn't even hold you. I was once again, devastated. My baby was here and I couldn't even hold you, feed you, or see you. Julie, our nurse, could see my defeat and that my body needed help. The long labor, major surgery, and additional medications had left me nearly incapacitated. I remember her leaning over me and quietly whispering “I know you're frustrated and your body is exhausted. We need to help your body reset, so I have a plan to give you some medication to help you sleep for several hours so you can start over,”. I was once again frustrated - the last thing I wanted was more drugs. But I trusted her. After some more explanation on what she wanted to give me, I agreed, and I slept. While I slept, Dad learned to breast-feed on me with the help of our nurse and some donor milk, and even how to use the breast pump before I did - ha!
After a stretch of sleep, I woke up and the room was no longer spinning - a miracle! I could finally hold you! You were so beautiful. I couldn't believe you were ours. I still can't. I could walk, eat, and I felt like a human again. We stayed in the hospital two days and your dad was the most amazing daddy. I was so adverse to the hospital before you were born, but the whole time we were there, even through the hard parts, I felt so safe and cared for. I wrongly assumed many things and I’m the thankful for the opportunity I had to be corrected. I truly enjoyed being there and weirdly, I really missed it when we got home. Though I still believe babies can often should be born at home, I no longer view the hospital as the enemy. We were respected and given the time and space to make our own choices, and the care from our nurses was absolutely exceptional. Nurses are actually angels in disguise - I'm just sure of it.
I have a newfound love and respect for my fellow c-section mamas and now, even more so, believe ALL birth is beautiful. We worked so hard for you, Jack, but you are worth it all and I do it 1 million times over for you. We love you!
You were born at 2:11 pm on December 6th. You weighed 7 lbs. 14 oz. and you were 21 inches long. Daddy said you had my nose and I think you look like his mini-me.
As I was processing this story again with a friend, I realized that through this labor and delivery, I felt God’s immense care for me. It brought me to the point of fully surrendering and trusting that God would take care of us and knew what would happen. Along with that day, caring for you has daily reminded me how God loves us and cares for our every need - and the magnitude of the sacrifice he made in sending His son.
A special thank you to our family for all your help when we got home, our amazing neighbors, Albert & Lindsay, for hanging out with our Abe much longer than expected, our neighborhood dog crew for taking Abe for countless walks, and the many friends and church family who has been providing meals and helping with errands since day 1. We are so thankful for you!